Comprehensive Data Collection Looks At Investments In Children
Jan 21, 2009
When the group Texans Care for Children focuses on a "well child," they envision a child thriving and receiving supports in multiple areas of life. The "Children's Campaign Report - 2009 Update" examines child well-being comprehensively, using data on family economic security, health, mental health, early care and education, child welfare, and juvenile justice. Within each area, the report tracks data indicators over the past few years to determine if the state is improving or declining. The results are mixed for Texas children, with some indicators better than in 2000, some worse, and others remaining steady. For example, in Texas, licensed child care capacity has not kept pace with the number of children under age 6 who need care, resulting in a greater percentage of potentially unserved children, while the percentage of school districts offering pre-kindergarten has risen. The report s recommendations include increasing and improving child care, since the data indicate that families needs are not being met in this area.
Similarly, the organization Children Now has released "California Report Card 2008: The State of the State's Children." The report examines multiple indicators of children's health, education, and cross system issues in the state. Both reports include analysis of: licensed child care capacity compared to children needing care, children's access to mental health service, children without health insurance, women receiving prenatal care, and children in poverty, as well as several other indicators. The California report card assigns letter grades in each category. Some areas of children s health scored higher than early care and education and K-12 education, which both received a grade of C minus. After school programs received a B plus. Recommendations are made in each area, for example, data on workforce capacity and standards is used to support the recommendation for focusing more attention on a well-trained and sustainable early childhood workforce.
By zeroing in on specific indicators that make a big difference for children, both organizations have quantified progress as well as areas needing improvement, which they use to inform policy recommendations for their state. Data can also show the cost of under-investing in children. In these economic times, we cannot afford to pass up sound investments in child care and early education and must be thinking comprehensively about the needs of children across all domains.